Special Correspondent, Ben-Deborah, Shtetl Kupishok:
its beautiful-sounding name, which comes from the little Kupa
River flowing nearby, it's almost unbelievable to find in
Lithuania such a neglected assortment of deteriorated buildings
as is found in that little shtetl. Even backward little country
crossroads look better.
owners should only forgive me but, when you look at the homes on
the streets of Kupishok, the name "Kapcansk", would be
more appropriate. In spite of the above, the surrounding scenery
is not bad. There are little forests, mountains and hills. But
you can't overlook how poor and needy are the inhabitants. As
the saying goes, not everything that shines is gold.
was and still is a Jewish place. Before the War, 75 percent of
over 3,000 residents were Jewish. Now, more than 50 percent are
Jews. They have a town center which can't be dismissed out of
hand, but they are not an independent shtetl. They belong to the
was a time when Kupishok was self-governed. The majority were
Jewish members, but the city management didn't support or help
them at all. Before the War, the shtetl was famous for its big
open bazaars. After the War, it became an important center for
raw materials and various factories. Many Jewish families made a
living from that. Now, the trains, wagons, and ships are loaded
and there are no customers.
percent of the Jewish handicraft workers are suffering because
of the Jewish Peoples Bank (Zydu liaudies bankas). The famous
bad director, Furmanowsky, disappeared with big sums of money
that Kupishok Jews had invested. At first, the Peoples Bank
didn't press the members or investors and prolonged the
payments. Now, the bank has taken action, and all the Jews have
to replace the loss. A Jewish handicraft worker came to my room,
crying bitter tears, and telling me "Mr. Correspondant, you
understand what's going on? We have to pay every groshen (penny)
to the Peoples Bank to cover for the sins of Furmanowsky, and my
wife and children will suffer hunger and starve." There
aren't any social organizations who could help.
are two public schools. One is a Jewish school. According to
witnesses, the Ponevezher Circle School Inspector cites this
Jewish School as the best example of its type. In spite of the
fact that they don't get any government support, Kupishok is
still very proud of its achievements.
years ago, the little town played an important role, about which
there are many legends. Two of them I would like to mention:
Jewish beis hamidrosh (study house) or like we call it, the shul,
is built of the strongest materials. The building has the best
foundation. The church was just the opposite -- it was built of
wood. Why this was so was told to me by a very respectable old
man, a "zaken". Hundreds of years ago, when Kupishok
belonged to Harabies Getwertinsky, an Arabian princess came to
bless the grounds before building a Catholic church. The
materials were ready for construction to begin. Then, Jewish
delegations from all parts of the shtetl came to her and
explained the importance of the Jewish blessings. The princess
found special beauty in their lives. She changed her mind and
all the strong materials went to build the synagogue, and the
church was built from wood.
second legend, about a horrible, bloody, criminal injustice, is
recounted today by the Jews of Kupishok who say only their own
great, great, great grandparents survived those times. A poor
tailor and his four sons were the innocent victims. The Polish
court found them guilty and they suffered a painful death.
isn't any political or social life to speak of. They have only
two Jewish daily papers, "The Voice" and the
"People's Paper" ("Folksblat"), in Kupishok.
The agents from both papers compete with each other, but they
are partly comrades. They don't make any money from their work.
The main purpose is to convince people that theirs is the best
solution to the issues at hand.
is also rich with different types of characters such as the
108-year-old shammes (synagogue caretaker). He is an old man, a
"zaken", who goes up on the bemah each Shabbos and
bangs his fist on the table or yells "Sha!", causing
the windows and walls to shake.
residents of the shtetl don't like outsiders to work in their
post office. Even the Christian people agreed with that. They
also took care to have what was known in Russian as the
"Jewish" yelling-type of mailman. Now, the Jewish
mailman is supported by the city.